Monday, February 4, 2008
Send Troubles to the Ditch: Preparing Before They Get There
President Calvin Coolidge once said: "If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you." One of the surest ways of sending troubles into the ditch is setting up roadblocks before they reach you. Underestimating the impact of planning for the future can have huge implications for the direction your life will take. It is amazing to me how many people act as if life will just come on its own and sweep them off to good fortune and fulfilled goals, not realizing the effort it takes to acheive anything more than mediocrity.
Retirement. Education. Marriage. Buying a house. Having children. The majority of us will have a number of life events for which we can be easily plan and prepare - and most are not purely financial. Marriage, while certainly not devoid of financial aspects (one of the largest reasons for divorce is finances), involves at least as much preparation on the emotional, relational, and spiritual levels. At some point, the day of decision on these matters will come - waiting until that day to begin planning is far to late to make a real impact on the outcome.
Take retirement for example - waiting until you are sixty to start preparing for retirement is woefully inadequate to meet the majority of people's needs. The earlier you start to plan and prepare, the more leverage and control you will have over the outcome. There really are only two solutions for under-planning: Postpone or reduce the size of your goals.
Failing to plan for foreseeable life events is a lot like waiting until the day before your vacation to start preparing for the trip. Suddenly, you realize that you need to pack, get tickets, accomodations, transportation. Typically, you'll spend more. You'll forget items. You'll waste time figuring out what you want to do. You'll add stress. And in the end, even if you manage to go, you won't have nearly as fun or relaxing a time as if you had taken the effort to project into the future a bit.
So start packing your bags: figure out what decisions you are going to need to make in the next 5, 10, or 20 years. Next, figure out what kind of tools or skills you'll need. Maybe it will be a budget. Maybe it will be something like setting aside an evening for a family activity each week. Maybe it means taking some extra classes to improve your job skills. Whatever it is, look ahead, start planning, and send those future troubles into the ditch!